PotashCorp reported preparing to make hostile K+S bid

Reuters — PotashCorp is prepared to launch a hostile takeover offer for German potash mining rival K+S under certain conditions, German newspaper Handelsblatt reported Tuesday.

Handelsblatt cited financial sources as saying Saskatoon-based PotashCorp had talked to brokerages in Canada about such plans. PotashCorp declined to comment.

K+S shares jumped as much as 10.3 per cent on the report and closed 7.3 per cent higher at 36.11 euros (C$53.49), the biggest intra-day rise since a 40 per cent surge in late June following Potash’s initial takeover bid.

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K+S had previously rejected a takeover proposal worth 41 euros (C$60.73) per share.

New top-level talks were held in Wiesbaden, the regional capital of Hesse, where K+S is headquartered, Handelsblatt said. Far-reaching guarantees on jobs and facilities were discussed, the newspaper added, citing a PotashCorp spokesman.

Hesse’s regional government, however, denied the report’s claim it was aware PotashCorp was planning a hostile bid.

Government officials had two meetings with representatives of PotashCorp, Hesse administration Michael Busser said Tuesday in an emailed statement.

“But a hostile takeover was explicitly not discussed in either of the two meetings,” Busser said. “Quite the contrary, in none of those meetings did Potash reveal its concrete plans.”

Hesse’s government, he said, “out of concern for thousands of jobs, has always supported the independence of K+S.”

K+S has previously dismissed as unreliable assurances by PotashCorp about maintaining jobs and mine sites in Germany.

K+S is also developing a major potash mine near Bethune, about 55 km northeast of Moose Jaw, in PotashCorp’s home province of Saskatchewan.

Reporting for Reuters by Ludwig Burger, Patricia Weiss and Andreas Cremer; additional reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg.

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